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Plant Biology

Plant defense response studies (Braam Lab).


Plants are essential for human life, providing both the food we eat and the air we breathe.  Recent technological advances are driving tremendous progress in our understanding of plant biology and our ability to develop needed improvements.  At Rice University, we are using modern molecular, genetic, and bioinformatic tools to address such fundamental questions as how plants develop, respond to their environment, sense and respond to signaling molecules, and synthesize an incredible diversity of chemical compounds.  This work is exploiting the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, in which we can generate thousands of transgenic plants, isolate mutants defective in almost any process, and rapidly clone the genes affected by these mutations.  The Arabidopsis genome is completely sequenced, which enables whole genome analyses, such as transcriptional and protein profiling. 

Ultimately, the information gained from these studies will not only increase our basic understanding of plant biology, but may allow the development of improved crops, plants that withstand diverse environmental stresses, or plants that produce valuable compounds, such as anti-cancer agents.

Altered sensitivity of Arabidopsis mutants to
prolonged darkness from the Braam lab

Faculty links:

Bonnie Bartel:  Molecular genetic studies of peroxisome biogenesis and functions in Arabidopsis; roles of auxin precursors in plant growth and development (lab home page).

Janet Braam:  Regulation and functions of calcium sensor proteins and cell wall modifying enzymes in plant growth and responses to the environment (lab home page).

Seiichi P. T. Matsuda:  Genetic and analytical chemistry investigations of sterol and terpene metabolism and function in plants.

Adjunct faculty:
Richard A. Dixon (Director, Plant Biology Division, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK): Regulation and genetic manipulation of plant phenylpropanoid biosynthesis.

Kendal Hirschi  (Professor, USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX):  Molecular and genetic analysis of plant nutrient acquisition and calcium signal transduction.

Silique image from the Bonnie Bartel Lab